May 8, 2008

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Testament, The Formation of Damnation
Nuclear Blast Records, April 29
Testament was one of San Francisco’s first coattail-riders of Metallica, and might have gotten a little more popular if singer Chuck Billy didn’t sound like James Hetfield’s least intelligent brother. The band re-formed for this record, just in time, as it happens, to stress-test the floors of various stages while opening for the important bands of a couple of sweaty Metalpalooza fests reaching out to young wallets as we speak.

The cooler parts of “The Evil Has Landed” all borrow heavily from the title track to Metallica’s Ride the Lightning LP, and there you have this record’s encapsulated story. The mental spankings Hetfield received from Metallica’s various producers resulted in a beat-up obtuseness to his delivery that made him sound sinister: here’s a line about tanks and devil-bats, now sing it without making like a wrestler in front of a camera. Billy never got this advice, and once again comes off like a knock-off Hetfield who watches too much wrestling. There’s some interesting riffing at least, trumping the corporate-handcuffed Metallica of today.CE.W.S.